About a month ago, I did an informal poll on fantasy subgenres and results have continued to trickle in with the passing weeks. The results of the poll combined with the feedback left by commenters left me to draw a few (highly unscientific) conclusions.
- Epic fantasy still captures the interest of many, but readers want it to offer something unique that reaches beyond the traditional formulas.
- Fairy tales and myths have enduring popularity, and most of us still enjoy seeing those stories retold or their elements incorporated into entirely new works. This has been happening for hundreds of years, and while it may change form, I don’t see it ever stopping.
- Fantasy readers generally enjoy most of the subcategories within the broader genre. Certainly, we have our favorites and maybe a few we don’t like, but many people voted for almost every subgenre listed in the poll (myself included). This may be because despite distinct differences between subgenres, almost all fantasy shares one thing in common–an imaginative exploration of unknown and the fantastic. It reveals what other worlds say about our own, causes us to consider the greater realities in life, and reframes the ordinary elements surrounding us in a way that transforms our view of them.
Beyond all that, however, the biggest element I took away was one I’ve actually observed for a while: Greatness in fiction transcends genre and will engage readers regardless of their normal preferences. The market trends may vary, but there’s always room for a meaningful tale, well-crafted, with characters that grip the emotions. Whether such a story comes in the package of urban fantasy, retold fairy tale, epic fantasy, or any other subgenre, it will find readers. As a writer, I find that both a challenge and an encouragement. What about you?